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Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling Paperback – 6 Sep 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846685672
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846685675
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.2 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 281,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Praise for The Story of English in 100 Words:

'Crystal's book is full of distractions and delights

(Daily Express)

Delicious revelations ... Crystal does an excellent job (Independent on Sunday)

One of [Crystal's] best ... it builds gradually into a kind of linguistic tapestry, packed with abstruse information, wonderfully readable (Spectator)

Entertaining ... Crystal's many examples show that the development of English spelling is as random, unsystematic and anomalous as the British constitution. English spelling is as rich a mixture of anachronism, privilege and fashion as the House of Lords (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times)

A prolific author...he can write with authority on trends in the spelling of rhubarb and indeed on the history of the spelling of any tricky word you care to mention. For him, the patterns are clear... highly entertaining. (Observer)

Spectacular (Readers Digest)

A prolific author...highly entertaining to read (Nicholas Clee Observer)

This masterly book is a deft guide with a light touch (Harry Mount TLS)

A spelling book with a difference (Yorkshire Gazette and Herald)

Crystal's splendid book, the latest in a long line by this prolific language truffler, proceeds chronologically, deep in learning and characteristically light on its feet. (Marcus Berkmann Daily Mail)

A Must Read...An entertaining and fascinating study of how English spelling became so wildly inconsistent. (Sunday Times)

The chaotic yet enthralling story of British spelling through the ages (Bookseller)

Wonderfully erudite but entertaining (Saga)

Book Description

An enlightening tour of English spelling that untangles 'stationery' from 'stationary' - and explains why the 'i before e except after c' rule is so misleading

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very readable and enjoyable. Short chapters and down-to-earth explanations of why we spell as we do.

It's refreshing to read Crystal's passion for such a topic.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book really interesting if perhaps a little long-winded in places. Once the history and background to some of our odd seeming spellings has been explained, then correct spelling falls into place naturally. Should be required reading for all primary school teachers.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent book and well worth reading. A very interesting insight into our language.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A comprehensive account of the development of English spelling over the past thousand years that explains exactly what happened and why. A key text for anyone teaching English, and of great interest to anyone who ever wondered why it is as it is. Brilliant scholarship, clear explanation - a very important book indeed, in fact one of the most important ever written about the English language.
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Happy with this book.
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A real eye-opener of a book. Speaking and writing the language every day means you're thinking more about what
you're expressing rather than how you're expressing it. Once you start reading this book it really is hard to put down. Behind the (odd and quirky) spelling of a lot of words the author gives fascinating and logical reasons why certain words are spelt the way they are. Not only the spelling but also the pronunciation. If you are at all interested in the English language buy it.
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As a TEFL teacher in Portugal, I have always sympathized with students in their attempts to cope with the intricacies (or eccentricities) of English spelling. Here is a worthy attempt to throw light on a seemingly unfathomable aspect of the English language, a daunting task from which most of us would run a mile. This book is beautifully written, clear, concise and full of valuable nuggets of information. (I therefore disagree totally with the one-star reviewer.) Indeed, Prof. Crystal succeeds admirably in another daunting task, namely that of avoiding overly academic 'edubabble' while never once being guilty of condescension.

I have only one criticism and one 'niggle'. The criticism is that I was always waiting in vain for a chapter on the lack of diacritics, i.e. accents, in English. In Portuguese, whenever the stress is anywhere other than on the penultimate syllable, this is indicated by an accent. Hence 'cágado' (tortoise)is very different from 'cagado' (taboo: 'covered in excrement'). Meanwhile, students of English are left unaided to cope not only with the vagaries of English spelling but its vagaries of stress, e.g. 'famous/infamous'; 'advert/
advertisement'. In a book purporting to deal with the oddities of English written forms, this seems to me to be an omission. One may argue that diacritics do not actually affect spelling. But this to ignore the fact that the purpose of writing is essentially (with the possible exception of essay-writing for exams) to communicate something that will be read, either aloud or silently. Either way, in English a mystifying arrangement of letters is compounded by a total lack of information regarding syllable stress.

Oh yes, my niggle. I take issue with Prof.
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Format: Kindle Edition
OK it's not totally the fault of the French, but 1066 had a lot to do with how English spelling has evolved over time as have many other languages. Linguist David Crystal explores the evolution of English spelling in a remarkably easy to follow fashion with good humour and loads of examples and anecdotes. My one criticism is that inevitably, given the size of the task, this is quite a short volume and the bibliography for further reading is a tad sparse as well, so if you are already "into" language and spelling I'm not sure there is much that will be new to you here but for the casual reader this is a good introduction to the subject and is well worth a dip.
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